North Korea Is Sending Balloons Carrying Excrement And Propaganda Into South Korea

Published May 30, 2024

North Korea has sent more than 260 balloons carrying bags of waste and trash into South Korea after South Korean activists recently sent their own propaganda-filled balloons over the border.

North Korean Poop Balloons

South Korean MilitaryThe contents of a balloon sent from North Korea.

It’s easy to forget that, technically, North and South Korea are still at war. The Korean War only lasted from 1950 to 1953, but a peace treaty was never officially signed. For more than 70 years, the war has been at a standstill, with tensions between the two countries as high as ever.

While the two nations have not engaged in outright armed conflict since the 1950s, they have occasionally attempted to disrupt one another in various ways.

One method employed by both sides was sending balloons filled with propaganda leaflets over the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two countries. But now, South Korea has received balloons containing more than just propaganda.

“Gifts Of Sincerity” Sent By North Korea Are Filled With “Filthy Waste And Trash”

As Reuters reports, on May 29, South Koreans watched as hundreds of balloons floated over the DMZ carrying plastic bags filled with trash, old batteries, propaganda leaflets, and, in some cases, excrement.

At least 260 balloons were sent over the border, with North Korean officials calling them “gifts of sincerity.”

Officially, North Korea said the balloons were a retaliatory response to ongoing propaganda campaigns by activists in South Korea. These parties have reportedly been sending their own balloons with propaganda leaflets criticizing Kim Jong Un over the DMZ, along with items like banned food, medicine, money, and USB drives loaded with South Korean music and K-dramas.

Deflated Balloon From North Korea

South Korean MilitaryA deflated balloon from North Korea.

In a statement, the South Korean military called the retaliation “base and dangerous.”

Meanwhile, Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, called Seoul “shameful” and “brazen” for criticizing the North Korean balloons while its own citizens “cry for freedom of expression.”

“Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of the ROK and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them,” North Korea’s Vice Minister of Defense Kim Kang Il told state media earlier this week, according to the BBC.

Kim Kang Il likewise called South Korean activists’ balloons “dirty things” and a “dangerous provocation.”

Officials View The Balloons As A Form Of “Psychological Warfare”

South Korean activist groups have admitted to sending balloons with banned media and anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border as recently as earlier this month — despite the Seoul parliament passing a law in December 2020 that criminalizes such provocations.

The law was likely an effort to maintain the status quo between the two countries, though it also raised concerns among South Koreans about freedom of speech and human rights. In fact, a top court later ruled the ban unconstitutional, agreeing that it violated freedom of speech.

Naturally, North Korean officials did not take this kindly. Their response may at first seem petty, but some South Korean officials believe there may be more to the move.

Filth And Garbage Inside The Balloons

South Korean MilitaryWaste littering the streets of South Korea, part of a “gray zone” tactic from North Korea.

“By putting rubbish and miscellaneous objects into balloons, they seem to want to test how our people would react and whether our government is indeed disrupted, and apart from direct provocations, how psychological warfare and small-scale complex threats would play out in our country,” one Seoul official said.

South Korean officials warned residents to stay indoors and to avoid touching the plastic bags sent over the border, as they could contain “filthy waste and trash.” Citizens were also asked to alert authorities if they came across an “unidentified object.”

“It seriously threatens the safety of our people,” the South Korean military said. “North Korea is entirely liable for what happens due to the balloons and we sternly warn North Korea to immediately stop this inhumane and crass action.”

After reading about this odd retaliation from North Korea, learn about “Peace Village,” the North Korean propaganda town. Then, learn about the animals that live inside the DMZ.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Harvey, Austin. "North Korea Is Sending Balloons Carrying Excrement And Propaganda Into South Korea.", May 30, 2024, Accessed June 21, 2024.